We Are Nowhere And It's Now by Chatti Brown

“What do you need?” he asked. “To know that the balance of the world is suddenly perfect,” I answered. So we made music and I tried not to cry.

It’s no secret that I’ve been feeling melancholy lately, a glum that washes over me in mere minutes. I’m processing my father’s death and part of that is putting energy into creating something-anything to not let it settle into my bones for too long. It helps a little but sometimes at night I have trouble sleeping and I have to ask my husband to hold me a little closer. That grief is a strange curious thing. I can’t shake it off.

Notable Reads 2018 by Chatti Brown

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2018 saw me reading sixty five books, enjoying audio books, and digging into character driven stories. While I have a fave because, who doesn’t love Shirley Jackson, below are notable reads that lingered long after the books were put away.

A Place For Us: Anne Bogel told me I would love this one but I was skeptical. She was right, of course. I was completely blown away by the emotional depth and beautiful insights into this Pakastani American family. This is the kind of book I wish I’d written, not only because it was filled with stunning passages but because I could see this story unfolding with a Cambodian/Cambodian American family.

Idaho: A quiet story that tiptoed into my life after having heard about it on Book Riot’s “All The Backlist” podcast. The very next day it stared at me during my trip to the thrift store. This tragic story unfolds slowly-moments of darkness, then stillness and you are left with immeasurable longing and loneliness. As a mother it was triggering and heavy but the writing was so brilliant that the story continues to stick with me today.

Station Eleven: How do I even explain this story that has tugged and pulled at my heart? Dystopian (only 1% of the world survived), multiple narratives, intricate yet eloquently woven together. I didn’t want to get to the last page- I wanted to follow the characters further into their stories. A complete surprise at how much I enjoyed it.

The Fact of A Body: Again, extremely triggering. I was fine when reading at the coffeeshop but while waiting at a red light going home, I bawled my eyes out. This is a nonfiction book, interwoven with a true crime that happened in Louisiana with the author’s own examination of her childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather. Powerful and filled with vulnerable reflection, if this is too much for you but you’re still curious the podcast Literary Disco does an excellent job at dissecting the book.

Killers Of the Flower Moon: A true story of the Osage murders and the formation of the FBI. Please pick this up, you won’t find this story in your history books. Masterful storytelling and journalistic work that it felt like reading a fascinating fiction novel (unfortunately, the things Native American tribes have had to endure are painfully true).

We Have Always Lived In A Castle: My favorite read of 2019. While gothic and disturbing at times (particularly, mob mentality), I’ve found I really enjoy books that straddle between light and dark forcing me to question my alliance to everyone in the story. Shirley Jackson is a genius.

There There: A book about twelve”urban” Natives making their way to the annual Oakland’s Pow Wow. Each story so interesting that I barely cared that I couldn’t remember all their names. At the end it all made sense and I was sad when the book came to a close leaving me wanting to wrap my arms around some of the characters. Captivating, fresh, and devastating. The prologue, in the author’s voice, had me hooked and I couldn’t help stifling my tears. I hope Tommy Orange comes out with more books.

I also talked about An American Marriage here, and Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows here.

The View Outside The Window Wasn't All Bad by Chatti Brown

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I’m writing this on the couch, surrounded by used kleenex, an assortments of herbal teas, and lit candles. The latter simply there to add some warmth and ambience. I caught a bad cold on the second day of our trip in Utah which meant no hiking something that I’ve been looking forward to for some time. While there were pieces of me that was sad, I was also in deep gratitude for company that understood. I knitted while watching The Ballards Of Buster Scruggs and stared out the window. We stayed at a place the locals called the “ museum house.” The view was breathtaking and wondrous. I didn’t spend my days riddled with FOMO or guilt, I just lapped the scenary. I mean, look at that view!

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There has been a lot of old thoughts lately. What am I doing? Is it enough? Am I happy? The answers to all three are yes, yes, and YES. The problem is I’m looking down at my phone too often to really soak all of life in. It wasn’t till that moment in Utah had I really taken time to stay present. Just breathe. In giving myself permission to rest, I felt alive. But the problem still persist. What to do with all that social media time? I set the phone to turn off instagram once I hit the 1 1/2 hour mark but it also allows me to ignore the limit for the day, and I always hit that very button when asked. So much for self control. However, I did notice that my time on social media while in Utah was significantly lower. I barely touched the phone except to check business emails and put on Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets on Audible. I felt so awake, moving my body without my mind being in a fog. A part of me knows this was because I was away, enjoying myself and not working. But I also know that too much time on social media clogs my brain, causes me to compare, and get anxiety.

So what to do now that the view isn’t as nice? Now that I’m back to the daily grind and tempted to pull out my phone to take a look at what my “friends” are doing? I don’t have the answer but I’m willing to keep exploring it. How do I show up offline and online? How can I make my experience better? Seems like recently, everyone is asking that and there’s no one answer.

A list of things I’m enjoying:

Marlee Grace: I like her. She used to fill my instagram space with her dancing and knitting. She’s still doing that plus other things that are just as exciting. Yes, knitting is exciting but her newsletter is even better.

Project Voice Pod: A podcast spearheaded by women and non-binary folx of the Asian diaspora.

Harry Potter on audible: A whole different experience each time I read the series, watch it, and now listen to it. I’m currently on the second book and while the themes in these books can be dark, my heart is happy catching up with my favorite characters. Apparently there’s a debate on who narrated the series better Jim Dale (American version) or Stephen Fry (UK version). I don’t care to debate on this. Just means I get to listen to the Stephen Fry’s version when I’m finished and enjoy the series all over again.